NewsStructural Biology

Protein Matchmaker May Lead New Gene Therapy to the Altar

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Science  12 Jul 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5272, pp. 183
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5272.183


An ancient molecular weapon, devised by a lowly bacterium to fight off fungi and other competitors for scarce nutrients, could become one of the newest additions to the arsenal of drug design and gene therapy. On page 239, researchers use x-ray crystallography to show that the molecule—rapamycin—plays the role of a marriage broker, linking two proteins that normally ignore each other into a complex, called a heterodimer, that actively interferes with the proliferation of the immune system's T lymphocytes. With a little molecular tinkering, researchers say, that structure might perform other functions. One, already being explored as gene therapy, is to bring together molecular partners that perform specific functions, such as turning off or on cell signaling pathways or specific genes.